Cooking from sales is a skill I was brought up with. In my adult life, my need to use it has come and gone, but it’s always been my preferred way to cook. I find that constraints keep the routine task of cooking interesting. Whether you shop sales out of genuine need or another reason, here are a few tips to help the process go more smoothly.
Identify your culinary assets.
Sit down with your grocery store’s sales flyer and the contents of your freezer and cupboards. Work up a list of the main ingredients you have available to cook with that week. Use Guiding Stars to identify the most nutritious sale items. Foods labeled with one, two, or three Guiding Stars offer good, better, and best nutrition.
Bring technology to the table.
Once you know what you have to work with, find a recipe that fits. Many online recipe services offer sophisticated searches or filters to help you pick recipes based on the ingredients you have in your cupboard. Guiding Stars lets you narrow our site search down to only recipes. Our search looks at ingredients as well as titles, so you can search for recipes containing specific ingredients.
Involve your family.
For my money, one of the hardest parts of cooking from sales is getting family buy-in. If you’ve got picky eaters who turn up their noses at anything but white chicken, feeding them on a shoestring budget is tough. Here are a few ideas for encouraging kids especially to be a little less resistant to eating more diverse foods.
Talk to them about money.
Let your kids know what your food budget is for the week. Make it a math lesson or a game to feed the family within the budget. Celebrate savings when you can with visible rewards. For example, if you come in under budget by a little, put the money in a savings jar for a family treat.
Give them food choices when you can.
Have them check the pantry for you while you plan your meals. If you have options, let them choose between beans and lentil or rice and barley. Let them look through the flyer with you. If there are two options you could afford on something you need, for example, on fruit, let them pick. “Okay, we can afford either apples or grapes this week. Which would you prefer?”
A little pride in preparation can go a long way to overcoming reluctance to eat a food. Whether you do a meal prep day or give everyone a job for making dinner every night, make it a chance to connect and teach skills. Read more about fun ways to get your kids involved in the kitchen or how to use meal prepping to encourage family time.